After Friday's 6-2 loss in Game 7 of the World Series, Cruz stood at his locker answering questions, trying hard not to reveal his disappointment, but his welling eyes made it difficult to hide.
"It's hard. We still have to be positive about this," Cruz said. "We got here in back-to-back years and it's hard to be here. In the bottom of my heart I know we are champions, the way we play, the way we take of each other, we never give up. To be able to be so close, one strike away to be champions, now we are on the other side, it is tough."
Cruz produced a playoff hitting barrage for the ages, crushing a record-tying eight home runs for a single postseason. It looked as though he would break that tie with Barry Bonds (2002) and Carlos Beltran (2004) in the sixth inning Friday night. With the Rangers trailing 5-2 and desperate for offense against rolling Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter, Cruz launched a towering shot to deep left.
It was so high it looked like it had no choice but to go out. Left-fielder Allen Craig drifted back until he ran out of warning track and made a leaping catch with his glove over the wall to bring it back in and rob the Rangers of any momentum.
The Game 7 loss only reinforced how close the Rangers were the previous night to winning it all. And, Cruz said he will have a tough time erasing the memory of the two-out, ninth-inning rocket David Freese sent his way, but out of his reach.
Cruz was scrutinized after the 11-inning Game 6 loss for his awkward approach to the tailing liner that crashed off the wall and scored two runs to send the game into extra innings.
"The play in right, I don't care who you are, was a tough play," Josh Hamilton said. "It's a little different if the ball was hit high and coming down, but it was a line drive off the wall. I'm surprised that Nellie even got back there close enough to attempt to catch it."
Cruz said in the end, the homers he hit will fade, but the play he didn't make will be difficult to erase.
"Definitely, maybe the one play is going to be there, it's going to be tough," Cruz said. "It's not like last year when we got blown out by San Francisco. We came farther this year and closer to becoming a champion. I cannot think about it."
Boomstick or bust. Ten of Cruz's 14 postseason hits went for extra-base hits. Six of his eight homers came in a monstrous American League Championship Series that earned him MVP honors. For the entire postseason, though, he hit just .226 with 14 strikeouts. In the World Series he was 5-for-25 (.200) with two homers, one in Game 6 after Adrian Beltre belted one for a 6-4 lead, and three RBIs.
"No, it's nothing," Cruz said of his home runs. "You want to be a champion and whatever I did was not enough."